Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, has finally opened up on why he wrote a ‘protest letter’ to President Muhammadu Buhari, over the planned repatriation of the £4.2 million forfeited by associates of a former governor of the state, Chief James Ibori, to the coffers of the Federal Government.
He explained that the main reason why the letter was written in the first place, after due consultations with the State Executive Council (SEC), eminent leaders of thought and concerned Nigerians was to return the funds to the state for infrastructure projects essentially.
He noted that it was wrong by the Federal Government to use the funds to complete roads in other states, when federal roads in the state were in deplorable conditions. The United Kingdom (UK), in a bid to douse tension, had urged the Federal Government to enter into a ‘direct talk’ with the Delta State Government in order to address the seeming controversy, arising from the planned repatriation of the £4.2 million forfeited by associates of Ibori to the coffers of the Federal Government.
The ‘direct talk, according to the UK, was aimed at ‘clarifying and addressing the seeming controversy’, which ensued over the eventual use of the repatriated funds. The Federal Government had announced, through the Attorney- General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), that the funds would be channelled to complete the Second Niger Bridge, Abuja- Kano Expressway and the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, under the coordination of the Nigeria Social Investment Authority (NSIA).
In 2012, Ibori had pleaded guilty to money laundering and other charges in a UK court and was consequently sentenced to 13 years imprisonment. Following these, some of his associates (three women) were also convicted and sentenced to prison over similar charges. Speaking as a guest on a monitored Channels Television programme, ‘Politics Today’ on Wednesday, Okowa said he had spoken with Malami over the issue. The governor added that he was already working with the state’s Attorney- General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Peter Mrakpor, on ways to resolve the matter and return the repatriated loot to the state.
He said: “I have spoken with the Attorney-General of the Federation. My attorney- general went to have a meeting with him. I think that we are working and we are likely to come on the same page. We have written a formal letter of protest to Mr. President.” Okowa said the ‘protest letter’ by the state was as a result of the Federal Government’s resolve to use the funds looted from the state by Ibori to fund projects like the construction of the Second Niger Bridge, Abuja- Kano Road, and Lagos- Ibadan Expressway, which are not located in the stat He said he had expected the Federal Government to return the recovered money to the state where the funds were looted from.
The governor said: “In the same manner of the relationship created between the UK and Nigeria, we also expect that the Nigerian government will do the same thing by being magnanimous to return the money back to the source, which is Delta State.” On his part, the state Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu, said the letter was more of an appeal to the Federal Government on the need to complete ongoing infrastructure projects and an assurance that the money will be ploughed into the completion of the Ughelli- Asaba dualisation project.
He also listed the ongoing Warri/Uwvie Storm Drain as another project for completion with the looted fund. Aniagwu said: “The state needs huge injection of funds to ensure its Warri/Uwvie Storm Drain completion. The letter did not say more than what Governor Ifeanyi Okowa said on television.
“The letter simply explained to the Presidency why the money should come to Delta. It said we have got infrastructure projects which are ongoing and we are saying that Federal Government should please support us. “We need more money for our projects.
For instance, the Federal Government paid us part of the money for the Ughelli- Asaba dualisation project which ex-governor Uduaghan started and we put all the money back into the project. This particular money will help us push it through. “Also, the letter highlighted the need to deploy part of the money into the Warri/Uwvie Storm Water Drain project. That money will, in no small measure, help in its completion.”